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St. Mary’s Assumption and Redemptorist Parish
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History
Prior to the expansion of New Orleans before the Civil War, today's Garden District and Irish Channel comprised a separate city which was known as Lafayette. In the 1840's a flood of immigrants from Germany and Ireland, many of whom were Catholic, came into this French-speaking area. When a German-speaking Redemptorist priest, Fr. Peter Czackert, came through New Orleans in 1842, Bishop Antoine Blanc, seeing this as a heaven-sent way of providing spiritual care for members of his growing German flock, asked him to minister to them.

Fr. Czackert rented a Saturday night dance hall, known as Kaiser's Hall, which was converted into a chapel on Sunday mornings and within a year plans were made to build a temporary church. But he was recalled to Baltimore and it was left to Fr. Joseph Kundek, a diocesan priest from Croatia, to carry out the actual construction of a frame church on Josephine St., named St. Mary's Assumption. This was the first Catholic Church for Germans in the state of Louisiana.

In 1847 this young Catholic Parish was officially turned over to the Redemptorists, with Fr. Czackert as pastor. Though he died the next year, he was accompanied by, and followed by, other Redemptorist priests and brothers of remarkable vision, energy and faith. They found themselves ministering to three national language groups: the French, the Irish and the German. And within ten years the Redemptorists had built three separate permanent church buildings: St. Mary's Assumption (German), replacing the frame church, St. Alphonsus (Irish), and Notre Dame de Bon Secours (French).

The first permanent church constructed was St. Alphonsus. Under the dynamic leadership of Fr. John Duffy, assigned to New Orleans in 1851, the English-speaking Irish parish grew rapidly. Fr. Duffy had seen the work of architect Louis Long on a visit to Baltimore in 1854 and engaged him, in the following year, to design his church in New Orleans. The finely-detailed high altar and the painted ceiling are of special interest.

On April 25, 1858, the day that St. Alphonsus Church was consecrated, the corner-stone for the permanent St. Mary's Assumption Church (the present structure) was laid. There is no record of the architect responsible for this German Baroque Revival structure. The intricate brickwork of the façade is outstanding, making imaginative use of brick corbelling and molded brick to create arches, niches, and crosses. The stained-glassed windows and hand-carven wooded High Altar and statuary, imported from Munich, are among the finest in the city.

The construction of the French Church of Notre Dame de Bon Secours completed the Redemptorist commitment to minister to the faithful in their own language. Smaller and simpler than the other two churches, it was designed by architect dePouilly in a modified Romanesque style. When this Church was damaged by a hurricane in 1918, it was not repaired since the Archbishop decided to consolidate the three parishes. It was demolished in 1925. In the meantime, the Redemptorists opened a "chapel of ease" - Our Mother of Perpetual Help Chapel -at 2523 Prytania St. in the Garden District. This chapel served the parish until 1996, when the impressive Greek Revival mansion, in which it was located, was sold to best-selling author Anne Rice.

Determined to keep alive the tradition of a Catholic chapel in the Garden District, several parishioners managed to locate the original frame St. Mary's Church that Fr. Kundeck had built in 1844. It had been dismantled in 1866 after the present St. Mary's Assumption Church was completed. It had been rebuilt as a mortuary chapel in St. Joseph's Cemetery on Washington Ave. In 1997, with permission of Archbishop Francis B. Schulte, the little church was dismantled one again and returned to its original parish. It was rebuilt on Jackson Avenue and St. Mary's Chapel resumed services for the people of the former City of Lafayette on the first Sunday of Advent, 1997, as part of the Sesquicentennial Celebration of the Redemptorist Parish.

The most famous Redemptorist priest to serve in this parish was Blessed Francis X. Seelos, whose cause is being considered before the Congregation of the Causes of the Saints in Rome. Because of the danger of yellow fever epidemics, the Redemptorists sent only volunteers to serve in New Orleans. The former Master of Novices in Pittsburgh and Annapolis, and seminary prefect in Cumberland and Annapolis , Fr. Seelos chose to serve in New Orleans, knowing that he would find "a lasting resting place in St. Mary's." New Orleans would be his final assignment. Fr. Seelos labored cheerfully and tirelessly in St. Mary's Church, performing all the priestly duties required in a very active parish, and outside St. Mary's, visiting the sick, bringing them comfort and consolation, and some believe, obtaining for them God's healing with his powerful prayers. He died of yellow fever in 1867. In a room behind the High Altar of St. Mary's Assumption Church, the Seelos Museum contains relics and memorabilia of this holy man.

St. Alphonsus Church is restored as an Art and Cultural Center with a permanent display of artifacts depicting the history of Irish Catholic life in New Orleans.